Activities abound this winter break
CAPITAL REGION Children and teens are out of school next week, but not out of recreational options. Birds, butterflies, coyotes, skating, magic tricks, tea parties and flying guillotines will be among diversions available as local libraries, museums and nature centers schedule events for young people.
The weeklong party begins with several events today. At miSci, Schenectady’s Museum of Innovation and Science, birds and butterflies are the main attractions.
“Our busiest time is when kids are out of school,” said Mac Sudduth, executive director of the museum on Nott Terrace Heights. MiSci today opens “Butterflies,” an encore of a 2013 exhibit. Monarchs, black swallowtails and painted ladies will be among the species on display around the museum’s butterfly house.
“It was so popular last year and everybody liked it so much we thought we’d bring it back,” Sudduth said. “Based on the weather right now, I think it ought to cheer a bunch of people up.”
Other wings will also be on day watch. Local members of the Audubon Society will begin their annual backyard bird count at miSci today.
“We have an observation station and feeders, and they can talk to people about how to do feeders in their backyards and how to do a bird count,” Sudduth said.
A bird count also will be held today at the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar, starting at 9:30 a.m. A stroll on the center’s “big pine trail” will begin at 2 p.m.
Five Rivers has other plans for kids and parents. Coyotes will be the subject during Friday’s “watchable wildlife” session. An outdoor walk will begin at 7, followed by hot chocolate inside. Nature fans will explore the center’s “beaver tree trail” Saturday, Feb. 22. The center’s 10 miles of trails are open for cross-country skiers and snowshoe hikers and have just been upgraded with new snow.
Five Rivers Director Ray Perry said the free nature programs are designed to entertain and educate. He believes better understanding of nature leads to better appreciation of nature.
“It’s only when you appreciate something you’re willing to protect it,” he said. “We’re trying to build environmental stewards for the future.”
Perry said there is no guarantee coyotes will sound off Friday. They have been audible during past center gatherings, accompanied by owl hoots. “They’re definitely here,” Perry said of the coyotes. “If you walk the grounds during the day, you find tracks and scat.”
The center is not staffed Sundays or Mondays. When the Five Rivers building is open, snowshoes are available for rental at $3 for the entire day.
Outdoor activities have also been planned for the Camp Saratoga section of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, 80 Scout Road, Gansevoort. Among them are a full moon ski and snowshoe gathering from 6 until 9 this evening. Two miles of groomed trails will be lit by luminaries. A bonfire is also planned.
A cross-country ski demonstration will be held at the camp Monday at 10 a.m. Winter “Animal Olympics” will be held at the camp Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. Snow experiments will be conducted from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday.
The park will team with the Saratoga Springs Public Library for two other events — an animal tracking snowshoe hike Monday at 11 a.m. at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs and an “owl prowl” at Camp Saratoga from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
People can call the preserve office at 450-0321 or email email@example.com for information.
Some people may want more slippery grounds — ice.
Heather Groll, a spokeswoman for the state’s Office of General Services, expects the skating rink at the Empire State Plaza will be crowded with skaters all week.
“I would anticipate it will be busy if the weather is good, as with anything that’s free of charge,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing for kids to do, be outside in the fresh air.”
A “rock and skate” party will be held Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. Skating instruction clinics will be held Saturday, Feb. 22, at 9 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. Skating is free if kids have their own gear. If they don’t have their own blades, they’ll have to shell out for skate rentals.
Anne Clothier expects about 30 people will attend the “Victorian Tea Party” Tuesday at Brookside in Ballston Spa, home to the Saratoga County Historical Society. Children ages 6 through 14 will plan, prepare and enjoy traditional tea parties at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cost is $10 per person, $8 for society members.
“This is something we’ve done for the past few years,” said Clothier, Brookside’s director of education. “The kids seem to have a good time with it and it seems like it’s something a bit different from some of the other options. It’s a chance to step back in time.”
Clothier added that recreational activities at Brookside allow visitors to associate the place with a good time, a good memory. “It’s a good thing for kids to see museums as fun places to visit,” she said.
Registration for the parties is required by Monday. Further information is available by contacting Clothier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Proctors, CEO Philip Morris hopes kids go for crash courses in martial arts during their time off from school. On Thursday, 1986 kung fu cult film “Big Trouble in Little China” will begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by the high-jumping and high-spirited “Master of the Flying Guillotine” from 1976.
“We’ve tried a variety of things during these weeks, some of which have worked, some of which have not,” said Morris. “We know there’s a need and an interest. We’re still working out the right thing that works for a lot of people.”
The movies will be shown in the GE Theatre. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for students.
Kids interested in magic can check out the winter camp sponsored by the Schenectady Theater for Children at the theater’s Rotterdam Square studio. Aspiring magicians will learn tricks and how to create their own stage characters at the camp, which will run Monday through Friday and cost $150 per child.
Criss Macaione-Bilodeau, theater president, says it’s important to keep kids active during their time away from school. “It’s better than having them planted in front of the television or video screen,” she said. “We provide them with a learning experience. They don’t realize it’s a learning experience because it’s so much fun.”
As an added bonus, kids will get the chance to shine during their own performance Friday.
Puppets will also be in play at the theater. “Punch & Judy: The Final Chapter,” will be performed today at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Macaione-Bilodeau can be contacted at 489-0151 for information.
The eight YMCAs in the Capital Region will try to attract kids with programs such as Kids Night Out on Friday. At each location, two hours of activities will begin at 6:30 p.m. Fees are discounted for members.
Parents who can’t take the week off might consider “vacation fun clubs” at YMCA branches. Clubs are in session Monday through Friday, said Karen Hennet, chief operating officers for YMCA administrative office in Albany.
“I may be going swimming, I may be going out on a travel program, to go glo-golfing — glow-in-the-dark golfing,” she said. “Some of them also schedule groups to come in. They might have a tae kwon do specialist come in, they might do ‘zumbatomics’ with the kids. It’s just trying to get them involved in moving.”
That latter activity is based on adults’ popular “zumba” exercise sessions.
Hennet believes the all-day sessions give parents peace of mind as they spend days at work. “Mom and dad need the support of the community and community-based organizations to be able to raise their children,” she said.
Some other events scheduled for the Presidents Week include:
• Family games and storytelling will be part of the Albany Institute of History & Art’s free admission day Monday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Art-making and gallery tours are other options.
• A full week of events at the New York State Museum in Albany, including Family Fun Day today at 1 p.m.; the 21st annual James Campbell Memorial Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show and Sale today and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.; and a Starlab presentation in the Huxley Theater for kids 5 and older Tuesday and Wednesday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
• “Beauty and the Beast” by the National Marionette Theatre at Steamer No. 10 Theatre, 500 Western Ave., Albany. Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets are $13.
• “Ten Days of Play,” currently under way at the Berkshire Museum. Kids will play with recyclable materials such as cardboard boxes, fabric and tape, and create imaginative inventions. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23. Free with museum admission.